On December 28, 2009, I decided I would write and post every day. In 2010, I went to Tibet, and I didn’t take a computer because I didn’t believe I could publish from there. Outside of those 13 days, I have written and published every day, amassing over 5,100 articles and six books.
But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. If you want to understand what you know and how to better use your knowledge and your experience, writing every day will help you organize your thinking. The act of writing is thinking. Thoughts, ideas, and experiences appear out of thin air, showing up in your mind, where you wrangle and wrestle with them, trying to make sense of them.
You would do well to spend time writing and thinking, as most of us spend our time with some screen in front of our faces, consuming instead of creating. One might argue that the act of creation is better than consuming, especially when so much of the content that exists is designed to generate negativity and divide us from each other. For certain, writing will provide you with the time to organize what you know and what you don’t know.
Some Advice about the Writing Practice
If you want to write, the best time to write is early in the morning. It’s quiet, and your brain is just waking up. Giving yourself a half hour or an hour to write will be enough time for you to put words on a page.
When you don’t know what to write, start writing a list of all the things you don’t want to write about, until you bump into something. As far as I can discern, the muse only shows up when you start writing. Once you start writing, the sentence you write often leads you directly to the next sentence.
Don’t edit while you are writing. Just write, and later, edit your work. I use AI to edit what I write without allowing it to rewrite my work. Instead, I ask the AI to provide me with a table of edits so I can ensure I agree with any changes it makes. If you are going to publish your writing, you will need a real live editor who will help improve what you create and give you feedback about what readers might get out of it.
At some point, you will notice you write many more words than are necessary. My first editor told me that if something took 500 words to explain, it would take me 1,500 words. That was not meant as a complement because writing is not about quantity. Concise writing is compelling, so avoid being wordy. In which case, you might do two things. First, pick up a book called Several Short Sentences about Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. Second, train yourself to remove words you don’t need. I use software called WordRake, which identifies every word that can be pruned from your text.
Start Stories with Lessons
In Elite Sales Strategies, I included stories about two clients I lost because I wanted to describe a salesperson’s responsibility to tell clients the truth, even if it means losing a deal. Writing these stories can help you understand an event or an outcome. Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird, recommends making a list of all your stories and writing them.
We tell stories to ourselves and to others, and we listen intently when others share their stories. You might enjoy writing your stories down and uncovering what they meant to you and what you took away from an event or an experience.
Make a list from your earliest memory and work forward from there. One of my earliest memories was waving at the teenager that lived in the house behind mine. Instead of waving, he threw a rock that hit me above my eye. I still have a scar on that eyelid. This event made me tentative and afraid, something I conquered when I was 12 years old.
The Need to Read to Write
The best advice any writer will give you is to read, especially literature. The more you read, the more you absorb how writing works. The more you read, the better your writing. I am a blue-collar writer. I write like a bricklayer. One sentence is added to another until the blank page is stacked with words and paragraphs.
You never have to share your writing. You can write for yourself, and in fact, I believe it will help you be a better thinker, a better writer, and potentially a more interesting person in conversations with others. But for that to be true, it seems one must both read and write.
Reading, Writing, and Your Growth
The people whose names come down to us from the past read widely and wrote consistently. We may know their names because they published works, but they also almost certainly wrote for themselves. Reading and writing create a growth strategy because you learn much about yourself.
Those who are introspective enough to look inside and see what lives in your mind and your body. Your writing can surface things that you buried a long time ago.
If you want to write, writing daily will do much to improve your thinking, and your ability to effectively share your ideas.